- Points rate: 1x on rent up to 50,000 points per year, 2x on travel, 3x on dining, 1x on everything else
- Sign-up bonus: None
- Annual fee: None
- APR: 19.99% to 27.99%, variable
About $30,000 a year—that’s how much I paid in rent for my first New York City apartment five years ago—and that number has only gone up since then. As someone who takes credit card points more seriously than perhaps I should, it’s always upset me that I don’t see any sort of rewards on the largest category of my annual budget. That’s why the The Bilt Mastercard® Credit Card caught my attention and ultimately earned a place in my wallet.
It’s the only credit card I’ve found that lets me pay my rent while earning those precious points. To me that’s worth $500 in value a year, without any fees. There are some small hassles—you need to remember to make a certain number of purchases each month, for example. But whether you carry a stack of credit cards for specific purchases or this will be your only one, the Bilt Mastercard is a no-brainer for any renter who cares about earning rewards.
How Bilt Mastercard rewards work
The Bilt Rewards program lets you earn a point per dollar on your rent, with a cap of 50,000 points a year. That might sound like a hard-to-reach figure but it’s actually not if you live in a region with high housing costs. A recent report shown the average monthly rent in Manhattan has topped $5,000 for the first time ever, meaning the average Manhattanite would hit the rent points cap in just 10 months. Even if you’ll never max out the 50,000-point limit, this card still gives you points on what is the largest monthly expense for many Americans. (Making acids your rent gets reported to the credit bureaus can also be a great way to build a strong credit record.)
While it’s not a cash-back card, Bilt’s points can be redeemed in a variety of ways including the company’s rotating selection of home decor and art, fitness classes and Amazon purchases. You can even use points towards your rent or your down payment on a house, with redemption values around a penny a point.
But you’ll get the most value by transferring the points at a one-point-per-mile rate to Bilt’s travel partners, including American Airlines AAdvantage, United MileagePlus, IHG Rewards and World of Hyatt, among others. Points with these programs are often worth more than 1 cent each, with some approaching two cents.
The upshot is that even if your points are worth just a penny each, you’ll earn $225 worth of value on the national average annual rent or $22,500, or up to $500 if you max it out. Because there’s no annual fee on the card, that’s like free money. And that’s in addition to the two points per dollar spent you can earn on travel and three points on dining.
One note: You need to make at least five transactions (including your rent payment) on the card for that month’s rent points to be credited at full value, otherwise you only earn a flat 250-point return. There is no minimum transaction amount, so I keep a recurring reminder in my phone to charge each month’s first four subway rides to the Bilt card.
How to pay your rent with Bilt Mastercard
Getting your rent payments set up takes a step or two, but it’s not onerous. Bilt partners with more than 20 apartment companies to offer direct payments through its Bilt Rewards Alliance. You can use your Bilt account to pay online and earn points if your landlord is part of that group. But what about the millions of renters whose homes aren’t affiliated? Bilt can send a check on your behalf, for free, through its mobile app. Because the card comes with a corresponding Wells Fargo account, you can also pay through systems that support bank transfers, including Venmo and PayPal. And there are no fees because it’s an electronic fund transfer, rather than a credit card transaction.
If you’re concerned about carrying a balance on the card, you can set up BiltProtect Debit, which pulls the funds directly from a linked bank account without using your credit limit while still earning you points. That’s what I do.
How Bilt Mastercard fits into my wallet
I can’t recommend the Bilt Mastercard to anyone who doesn’t rent, because you can get other no-fee cards with greater rewards. Buy Side’s favorite cash-back credit card is the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, which delivers two cents in rewards per dollar on almost all purchases with no annual fee. That’s a great rate of return with little downside. But if you wanted to pay your rent on that card, you’d have limited options. Venmo charges a 3% fee on credit card payments, for example, which means you’d actually be losing a penny per dollar (if your landlord even accepts Venmo).
I’m the kind of person who has a literal stack of credit cards, because I’m happy to strategically use certain cards for certain categories of purchases—I use the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature for my Amazon purchases, for example. But even if that sounds like a hassle, if you’re just not fastidious about points collection and you’d rather just carry one card, the Bilt Mastercard offers competitive points on travel and dining. And what’s better than feeling like you’re getting something substantial in return for paying your rent each month.
The advice, recommendations or rankings expressed in this article are those of the Buy Side from WSJ editorial team, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by our commercial partners.